What does the latest IPCC report say about climate change impacts?

Thursday, March 17, 2022

The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report this month highlighting the impacts, adaptations and vulnerabilities that climate change will bring to different human and ecological systems across the globe. According to the IPCC, approximately 3 to 6 billion people live in areas that are highly vulnerable to climate change risks that are likely to be in the form of heavy precipitation, flooding, cyclones, drought, wildfires, or sea level rise to name a few (2022). The report noted that cascading climate impacts will result in increased disaster costs and the need for higher investments for the maintenance and reconstruction of critical infrastructure. Amongst all the information, the report provided a stark warning: “if global warming exceeds 1.5°C in the coming decades, then many human and natural systems will face additional irreversible risks” projecting that some adaptation limits have been reached but could be overcome with financial and institutional support (IPCC, 2022).

What does this mean for North America?

As average temperatures and climate hazards continue to rise, people’s mental health and physical well-being are also at risk. The rise in climate disasters like the wildfires in British Columbia last summer and the subsequent floods in the fall displaced many residents in the region leading to ad-hoc and involuntary migration. This type of displacement can lead to increased financial costs for governments who choose to engage in long-term retreat but also raise questions about whether it is better to rebuild in place. It is estimated that by 2100, the value of global assets in coastal floodplain areas is projected to be $12.7 trillion (2011 value) and rising to be $14.2 trillion (IPCC, 2022).

Additionally, communities in North America are at risk of degradation of marine, coastal and terrestrial ecosystems which can result in the loss of biodiversity and nature-based protections. This is most often driven by patterns of socio-economic development in vulnerable regions, unsustainable ocean and land use, marginalization, and historical patterns of inequity such as colonialism and governance (IPCC, 2022). As these risks increase, it is important to consider adaptation measures that work in conjunction with climate resilient development (CRD) to harness synergies and reduce trade-offs between adaptation and mitigation to advance sustainable development.

bc floods

Catastrophic floods pummel the province of British Columbia washing out major transportation routes (Photo Credit: The Global and Mail: The Canadian Press/Jonathan Hayward, 2021).

What does climate resilient development mean and why is this beneficial?

CRD is focused on bringing together a diverse group of stakeholders in government, private sector and civil society to prioritize risk reduction, equity, informed decision-making processes, and finances across governance levels to prioritize climate resilient actions. Since, urbanization and economic development is a priority across the globe, it is important to capitalize on this critical opportunity to advance climate resilient development especially in urban centers. This type of development can be integrated into community planning and decision making about the use of green/grey/hard infrastructure in flood prone areas. By integrating these actions into long term planning, these actions can increase communities’ adaptive capacity and open future pathways for climate resilient infrastructure. The reality is that this window of opportunity is closing and it’s important to capitalize on it to improve the well-being and lives of those most affected by climate change.


IPCC, 2022: Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [H.-O. Pörtner, D.C. Roberts, M. Tignor, E.S. Poloczanska, K. Mintenbeck, A. Alegría, M. Craig, S. Langsdorf, S. Löschke, V. Möller, A. Okem, B. Rama (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press. In Press.